bible blog 1186

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

BRITISH PARATROOPERS HELP STOP ELEPHANT POACHING Elephants walk in the early morning hour

Matthew 13:31-35

New English Translation (NET)

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

31 He gave them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the wild birds come and nest in its branches.”

The Parable of the Yeast

33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.”

The Purpose of Parables

34 Jesus spoke all these things in parables to the crowds; he did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet:

“! will open my mouth in parables; I will reveal things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

I’ve been using the mustard seed parable for harvest worship in the rural congregations which I serve. It is a splendid reminder that we take growth for granted, that it’s one of the fundamental processes of life. Jesus repeatedly identified God’s way of ruling the world with this natural process, drawing his hearers’ attention to the disproportion between seed /sowing  and plant/harvest. The utterly insignificant thing become a sheltering presence. This is the miracle of life. 

God’s way is compared to a natural process; it is one with creation. It is not, as many of Jesus’ contemporaries thought, a supernatural imposition upon the world. God’s goodness is not contrary to nature but rather a fulfilment of its potential. This is in accordance with the teaching of the book of Genesis. Yes, evil has come into the world through the arrogance of humanity but just as God did not prevent its existence, so God will not simply destroy those who are touched by evil (everybody?) but will persuade them into accepting his way. This takes time and risks failure, and in this it is akin to the loss and gain which are integral to the processes of natural growth.

In technical theological language I’m saying that nature and grace are not in opposition. Grace does not destroy nature or dispense with it; it completes it.  MustardSeed_LOGO300px

All this has implications for the way we talk about God. For example what does it mean to say that God is not opposed to the process of evolution, with all its extinct species? Well, it’s maybe a bit like a man sowing seed and not caring too much where it lands, knowing that where it lands in good soil it will be marvellously productive.

Jesus was reassuring his followers that the tiny,vulnerable community of disciples was indeed the arrival of God’s Way of ruling the world, the seed that would become a sheltering  shrub, the yeast that would leaven the whole lump of dough. It would grow by means as intricate, precise and natural as the growth of a mustard tree or the fermentation of flour, by means of persuasion.

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